Callum Borchers' Blog

Sociologically significant sports (and class assignments)

Delving into Deadspin

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It’s certainly not journalism, but in the world of sports media, its influence is undeniable. I’m talking about Deadspin, the irreverent, rumor-laden website owned by Gawker Media that thrust itself into mainstream consciousness this month when it reported that Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre had sexted a New York Jets game hostess when he played for that team in 2008.

According to the report, Favre sent unsolicited photographs of his genitals to Jenn Sterger’s cell phone and also left inappropriate voicemails for the former model. Deadspin’s story prompted not only extensive coverage by other outlets but also an investigation by the NFL, which is still ongoing.

It is the Favre saga that compelled me to learn more about Deadspin for a class assignment. I was introduced to Deadspin in the summer of 2006, when I was an intern at The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show on WEEI. Those guys loved the site, which was only a year old at the time. I know other sports reporters who read it religiously, but I’ve never been a regular follower. I’m just not into its tabloid-style.

But, like it or not, I cannot ignore Deadspin. The site averages 1.2 million visits per day, according to sitemeter.com. It drew more than 5 million visits on Oct. 7, the day it broke the Favre story, and more than 7 million the following day.

To its credit, Deadspin doesn’t purport to adhere to journalistic standards. Site editor AJ Daulerio told The New York Daily News that his site paid a source — not Sterger — for the photos and voicemails. And, yesterday, Daulerio authored a post about the Deadspin Sources’ Gold Club that would make an ethics professor weep.

“In exchange for their consistent dispensing of useful and accurate information, they become, in some ways, privileged figures in the Deadspin universe,” Daulerio wrote. “… Any tips or gossip related to them (or their friends) will be shared with them first before they hit the site in any full-blown capacity. For example, if we receive a photo of a Gold Club member (or acquaintance) drunk in a bar, or maybe an accusation of office rumpy-pumpy or of noteworthy drug use or something worse, he or she will be informed and will have the opportunity to respond, and in some cases the item will be dropped altogether.”

Awful, but honest.

Deadspin’s approach allows it to acquire and publish information that traditional news agencies couldn’t and wouldn’t. And, I must admit there is some value to its work. While I can’t condone the manner in which Deadspin collected Favre’s photos and voicemails, I believe the story those materials produced — a superstar athlete exploiting his position to sexually harass a young woman — is newsworthy.

It’s not the sort of writing I’d like to practice — or even consume on a regular basis — but I can’t deny Deadspin is both fascinating and important in today’s media climate.

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Written by callumborchers

October 27, 2010 at 1:41 pm

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